Capturing in RAW

Unless you need a quick photograph or don’t intend to edit the digital image, you should setup your camera to capture digital images in RAW. This enables the  image sensor inside the digital camera to capture maximum pixel details. Why? A  RAW file is a digital negative, like a film negative.  You will be able to open the digital image with digital darkroom software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, and then correct, edit, and enhance the image, enabling you to create the best print. On the other hand, if you capture photographs  as JPEG files, the image sensor will discard many details, compress the image, and then save it. The JPEG image prevents you from editing many settings of the digital image that you could do if you setup the camera to save images as RAW files.

What is A Raw File?

After you’ve set your camera to capture images as RAW files, the camera’s image sensor will record all of the image details it sees through the lens, after your press the shutter release. There will be no compression and discarding of image details.

The drawbacks of a RAW file are that you cannot print  or launch it to the Web until it is converted to JPEG. And so, you will have to the RAW file in a Camera RAW software, such as Lightroom or the Camera RAW software that comes with Photoshop.

With a RAW file, the camera records all image details as pixels (picture elements). As well the camera does not discard pixels, then compress the digital file. And so, the camera captures a digital negative with maximum image quality. On the other hand, all JPEG files are lossy and compressed. In other words, image details are discarded, the file is reduced in size, and then saved–which  results in a reduction in image quality and prevents you from editing the file with all the captured pixels.

What are the Drawbacks of Shooting in RAW?

It’s best to shoot in RAW,  unless you don’t  understand RAW. Or you don’t have time to edit the photo. Or you desire to quickly print a photograph or post it to the Web. For the novice, there are a few drawbacks to capturing images in RAW, including the following:

  • RAW digital files are 3 to 5 times larger than JPEG, and so they will take up a great deal of space on your memory card and on your hard drive.
  • A RAW file cannot be printed until you edit it with Camera RAW software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, and then saved as a JPEG image.
  • Editing RAW images can be complicated for the novice, especially if you don’t understand exposure, white balance, sharpening, split-toning, converting to black and white.

Learning to use a digital darkroom tool, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, takes time. And so there is a steep learning curve. However, if you intend to take up photography seriously, you must learn to use these tools.

Why Shoot in RAW?

There are many reasons to capture your images in RAW. With Camera RAW Software, which is built into Lightroom or is launched from the Bridge of Photoshop, you can do the following to a RAW file:

  • Adjust the exposure
  • Change the White balance
  • Crop the photo
  • Retouch the photo, such as removing red-eye, removing spots, removing elements you don’t want.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast
  • Add or change colour
  • Convert to black and white
  • Add filters, such as red, blue, yellow, green
  • Add split-toning, such as sepia
  • Add special effects, such as an old Polaroid
  • Sharpen the image and reduce noise
  • Convert the image to JPEG, TIFF, or PSD

If you want to capture the best images, you should always capture them in RAW.  If you don’t know how, read your camera manual to learn how to select this setting. Also you should buy a how-to book and related-digital- darkroom software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, and then teach yourself how to use these powerful digital editing tools for photographers. You will be able to edit, enhance, create the best photographs with the most details when you capture the photograph as a RAW file and then edit and enhance them in the digital darkroom.